Post Brexit Britain & public affairs

As the reality of Brexit really hits home, following the end of the transition period, what will the impacts be for those of us in public affairs? What does it mean for our immediate priorities?

The reality, of course, is that it is the transition period that comes to an end shortly. According to some surveys, businesses have expected the transition period to be extended. The Government has delivered a ‘get ready’ advertising campaign and we are now (as I write) in the apparent final throws of discussions over a trade deal.

But whether those discussions are successful or not, there are a number of realities that we all have to face and these will impact on our approaches to public affairs.

Support: there is a fair chance that many sectors will need continued support post Brexit transition and as Covid continues. The Government fully expects discussions to be ongoing so do not disappoint them. Whilst the Treasury may be the main focus of discussions for many, do not ignore the possibility that the solutions you are seeking should be more focused on policy solutions. These, in all likelihood, will not sit with the Treasury. So think cross-government.

UK’s position in the world: the DIT has already been striking deals with countries around the world ready for the end of the Brexit transition. Discussions about potential international opportunties should really have been taking place but, if not, now is absolutely the time to talk to government. Support is on offer as well, take advantage of that.

Reputation management: depending on the final outcome of discussions, there may be some reputation issues to consider. If you have operations or are trying to sell into other countries, especially in Europe, there could be some disquiet. Similarly, if you are seeking to attract investment there could be some initial hesitancy. Plan for that and look for ways to reassure potentially nervous audiences.

Think ahead: any thoughts about 2021 needs to reckon with elections in May and the opportunities and threats they bring, but also about the chances of, for instance, a mini-Budget early next year with a full Budget towards the end of the year (along with spending announcements). Preparing for a mini-Budget, with associated submissions, could be useful if support is needed. But as is normally the case, do not restrict your thinking to financial support but broaden out into policy that could really help.

The return of Parliamentary activities? this is probably something for slightly later in the year but as the country starts to return to normal then so too will the day-to-day of public affairs with events, receptions, meetings etc. According to surveys, such as that by Vuelio, MPs value face-to-face engagement. One can only assume that that is the same now or may have even increased in importance.  So why not think about what your programme could look like and how you can reflect your post-Brexit needs. That could also be the same for any ‘business as usual’ annual conferences to plan for as well.

There will be plenty of other issues to contend with in 2021 as well so public affairs should be looking forward to a busy year!

Stuart is a public affairs and communications specialist with BDB Pitmans advising clients on all elements of their public affairs strategies including political and corporate communications and reputation management. His work also includes consultation and planning communications and he has advised on a number of high profile media relations and crisis communications programmes. Stuart is an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen and is the author of several books including ‘New Activism and the Corporate Response‘ (heralded as a book that “every aspiring business leader should read” by MIS Asia), ‘Public Affairs in Practice’ and ‘The Dictionary of Labour Quotations‘. His most recently published book, ‘Public Affairs: A Global Perspective’ has been called ‘an absolute treasure-trove’ and is a recommended read by the Government Communication Service (GCS). Stuart regularly writes and lectures on a range of business and political issues and as well as blogging for BDB Pitmans he contributes to the Huffington Post and has written for the CBI, (former) UKTI, Total Politics and LabourList. He is also an adviser to the Entrepreneurs Network (TEN) and a regular speaker and chair at conferences. He has appeared on Sky News, BBC 5 Live, BBC World, the Today programme and on Ukrainian TV and has been a judge for the Public Affairs News, PR Week, Public Affairs and the European Public Affairs awards. Stuart is a CIPR trainer leading the 'Practical Public Affairs' course.

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